As we head towards a new decade, many are asking: what’s ahead for online casinos? Well the answer to that question, in part, is “we don’t know”. There are a few things, however, that we believe will continue to develop in the industry, making it one of the most interesting verticals to watch online. Expect somethings new and somethings old as 2010 progresses in the online gaming world.
Legality in the USA
This issue is no surprise: it’s known that millions of Americans gamble online every year, yet the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2005) aims to make it illegal. We say “aims to make” because this law actually hasn’t fully come into effect: a number of large banks that offer credit cards have complained that “it’s not their job to police online transactions”, and that any mandate from the government would be nearly impossible to enforce. As a result, Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts and Chair of the House Banking Committee has successfully pushed the official enforcement date back well into this Spring, while the government contemplates larger problems in the banking industry and economy in general.
Ultimately, if online casinos were legal in the USA, the landscape of the industry would drastically change. Almost over night, many of the small offshore gaming companies that call Central America home would fold, giving way for large USA based brick and mortar casino companies like Harrah’s to barge into the market. As a matter of fact, Harrah’s has already expressed strong interest in developing an online gaming arm in its operations, and was literally ready to pull the trigger in 2003, before all the legality issues arose.
Any move by a major land based casino would almost instantly put offshore casinos out of business, simply because they don’t have the shear amount of cash or resources that are needed to compete with these corporate behemoths. Just picture the scene if Wynn Resorts and Casinos moved in: with billions of dollars in the bank, Steve Wynn could take the whole USA online casino scene overnight if he wanted to.
One of the many hurdles that new online casino businesses face is choosing a software operating platform. In the years before UIGEA, there were well over a dozen first rate software providers, including the likes of MicroGaming, Cryptologic, Playtech, and others that were regularly being used in the USA market. Since UIGEA, however, these brands have pulled out of the USA scene and have decided to focus exclusively on European and International business. The result of this move left a bit of a vacuum in the USA facing online casino market.
As time wore on, a few providers decided to remain in the USA casino market, like Real Time Gaming. In the immediate days post UIGEA, RTG had to brush some of the dust off its shoulders, in part because it had a reputation for doing business with shady operations. Now, however, the perception of RTG, the top software platform for USA facing casinos, has changed dramatically and many players are pleased with the company’s aggressive game development and much improved track record.
We’ve also seen a few other new noteworthy software platforms enter the USA casino marketing, including Wizard Gaming, Top Game, and Rival Gaming. Like most new software systems, they still have some kinks to work out; but, for the most part, they have made some headway in providing USA players with new alternatives to RTG. For example, Rival Gaming has produced its signature line of “i-slots”, slot machines which actually have a plot line and video game style player interaction. These types of innovations have captured the interest of many USA players tired of the usual 7-7-7 one armed bandit.
Things coming soon…
There are a few things, of course, that we can’t predict for the next year. We already know that legal issues and software are in a constant state of flux: but we don’t know about many other important factors that guide offshore gaming companies, some of which include physical location (jurisdiction), banking options, mergers and acquisitions, and industry self-regulation.
As anyone in the casino business will tell you, cash is king. So, wherever it’s possible to run a highly profitable online casino operation, you’ll find new companies sprouting up left and right. Cyprus and Malta, for example, are well known havens for new gaming companies looking to make a break.
Finally, for the time being, there probably won’t be a lot of merger and acquisition in the USA market, at least while the national economic crisis persists. The only way for companies to make reasonable acquisitions is under favorable legal circumstances and plentiful income. Since neither of these conditions apply, any plays with online casino company stocks are better off made in the London Alternative Investment Market (AIM), where many legal international gaming companies trade everyday.
In conclusion, the editorial team at Jaxcasinos.com is excited to see what 2010 brings, and as always, will keep you updated and informed about the best places to play online. You can continue to trust Jaxcasinos.com as a great reference site and proving ground for any new and innovative developments in the casino market.
Good Luck from JaxCasinos.com!